Lowell, MA – Often employed in jobs that are hazardous, demanding, and high pressure, Brazilian immigrants in the Commonwealth are at high risk of injury, illness and death, according to a new report released today by the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The report uses results of a survey of 626 Brazilian immigrant workers and descriptive statistics on 147 worker compensation cases (2007) and 16 occupational fatalities (1999-2007).

«This research project profiled for the first time in the U.S. the workplace hazards and risks faced by Brazilian immigrant workers in construction, housecleaning and food and restaurant jobs,» said Dr. Carlos Eduardo Siqueira, the reports’ author and principal investigator of the research project known as COBWEB, which brought together community, university and health partners to investigate Brazilian occupational health concerns. «Brazilians may get injured and die as a result of the work they do.»

Forty-two percent of the more than 600 Brazilian workers surveyed reported experiencing a work-related health problem in the previous year, such as respiratory problems, injuries from falls and musculoskeletal disorders. Yet nearly 80% of those surveyed had not been provided with health and safety training.

«Project COBWEB will continue, because we developed training programs for construction workers in partnership with MassCOSH and learned how important health and safety matters are for the Brazilian community,» said Fausto da Rocha, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant Center (BIC), the Brazilian community partner in the project.

The report highlighted the occupational health risks associated with Brazilian immigrant worker exposures to toxic chemical products in cleaning jobs and lead in the construction trades. It revealed that lead poisoning may be a prevalent problem among Brazilian construction workers – especially painters – and recommends increased lead awareness training as a preventative strategy to reduce lead exposure.

«No workers should have to sacrifice their health and safety in order to earn a living,» said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of MassCOSH (Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health), a partner in the research project. «Employers in hazardous industries – like construction, landscaping and cleaning – need to pay particular attention to safety measures and training requirements that can prevent injuries, illness, and death.»

Initiated in 2003 and funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Project COBWEB is a project of UMass Lowell; the Brazilian Immigrant Center; MassCOSH; and the Lowell Community Health Center. The report was produced by Dr. Carlos Siqueira and Dr. Andrea Barbosa (doctoral student at UMASS Lowell), with the help of staff from partner organizations.

For additional information contact:
Prof. Carlos Eduardo Siqueira
UMASS Lowell

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